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The best kept secret in music


"slackstring: cd review"

Slackstring - self-titled
A drawing of a VW van parked next a pair of palm trees at sunset adorns the cover of Slackstring's debut, a release that perfectly captures that late afternoon beach front malaise. It is the precise soundtrack for anyone opening a beer or burning one down when the work of it all is finally being set down for the day. Full of warmly wistful acoustic ditties, the whole album feels comfortable from the first listen.

There's a directness that's refreshing. The music hasn't been fussed with too much and the rough edges make it all the more dear to me in an industry increasingly obsessed with polish. A couple of instrumentals complicate things nicely and in their more tender moments Slackstring remind one of the bedroom pop of Elliott Smith's Either/Or.

At just a shade over a half-hour it's one of those perfect records to put a wedge between you and the rest of your day. Like The Replacements' Let It Be or Nick Drake's Pink Moon, both classic half hour corkers, it lets us grieve the workaday disappointments and makes us guardedly hopeful for what tomorrow might bring.

Dennis Cook
JamBase San Francisco Bay Area
[Published on 12/9/2002] - Dennis Cook /

"slackstring: live review"

When I arrived, the bartender informed me that the band would go on in 15 minutes - the scheduled 9 PM starting time. As I looked around the club, I began to have my doubts. There was a tall ladder in the center of the dance floor, and a lot of preparations were being made. Workers scurried around, talking on cell phones, draping cloths and placing lit candles on tables. An area was roped off in the back - which turned out to be a V.I.P. section - and existing lights were dimmed while new red lights were being hung. Meanwhile, band members stood around, not in any sort of rush. I sat down at a table with a warm bottle of beer and waited. About an hour went by before Slackstring took the stage, and the few patrons who were there for the start of the show huddled close to the bar. The band started off with four songs that featured frontman Eric Lyman and guitarist Gavin Heaney playing acoustic, and their fun, laid-back vibe was enough to assuage any bad feelings I had about the night till then. "Lend Me Your Love," for which Heaney also played the harmonica, had a cool, mellow groove and a sound reminiscent of their ocean-side home, Manhattan Beach, California.
Slackstring then ditched their acoustic guitars for the electric variety for the remainder of the evening. Though there were a few highlights like "World of Misery," which had an infectious reggae beat provided bybass player Andy Weiss and drummer Matt Muir, and the closing numbers "Trouble Tambourine" and "Lovelight," which were played back to back in one continuous jam, I would have liked to have seen the band keep the acoustic guitars for the entire set - I thought they were more accommodating to the band's sound. However, Lyman and Heaney played well off of one another throughout, switching between bluesy riffs and loosely strummed, full chords and providing smooth vocal harmonies. Slackstring played admirably well, deserving of a more attentive audience. But this was their first stop in Chico on their first West Coast tour. Hopefully their next time around will garner them a warmer reception.

- James Barone

Chico, California 9/24/02


slackstring (self titled)
sunday jen (single, featured in "the Collective" - a mountain bike movie)


Feeling a bit camera shy


slackstring is the sound of Beach Town, California. slackstring is acoustic-roots-rock created from the sunsets, sand and surf of Southern California.

In high school, three members were in a punk-band that played backyard parties all over the South Bay, sometimes opening for another popular party band, the legendary sublime. These experiences crystallized the desire to play music and while the band was put on hold while the guys went to college, a musical kinship was born.

Fast-forward four years. The guys have kept in touch and continue to play music in other bands. Eric Lyman and Gavin Heaney both went to UCSB and each wrote notebooks of lyrics. After a graduation, a chance jam session with drummer Matt Muir created the plan to get the band back together.

After a few shows in bars in the south bay communities of Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo Beach, the guys started to realize that the drunken crowds of surfers and office workers liked the original material as much as the covers.

Using his personal computer and the basement of his parent’s house as a studio, Heaney began recording, mixing and producing the slackstring album. Meant to be a demo, the 12 tracks instead became the soundtrack to summer in the South Bay.

Selling the first batch of 1,000 to surf shops and at shows, the album was good enough to draw the attention of another graduate of UCSB, Jack Johnson, who had just finished his debut album and was selling out clubs throughout California. Casual friends from surfing, Gavin and Eric played a short acoustic set before Jack at a small venue in Santa Barbara called Roy’s Jolly Tiger.

slackstring started drawing bigger crowds and playing larger clubs, all booked because of the basement-recorded album. slackstring booked a nine-day tour of the West Coast, beginning in Malibu opening for Slightly Stoopid and ending in Seattle, after a brief sojourn into Vancouver, B.C. where the band was featured on cityTV, the Good Morning America of Western Canada.

After slackstring co-headlined a show at the House of Blues, Sunset Strip, a small record company “with a distribution deal with Dreamworks” approached the band about recording a demo in a real studio. To make a long story short, although the gem “Sunday Jen” was recorded, the project was scuttled when the band refused to sign an unfair production deal, after signing a demo agreement (that in itself was extremely one-sided).

Left with nothing but their music, slackstring continues to play shows in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego and San Francisco on weekends, but remain employed in day jobs. Income from the man has all gone towards equipment for the band as both Heaney and Lyman have built home studios in their respective homes of Manhattan Beach and Santa Barbara.

The basement album continues to win new fans with every listen. Benjamin Ford (son of Harrison Ford) and Pat O’Neill (son of wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill) are just two fans who have booked the band for parties.

The biggest break yet for the band is the mountain bike film The Collective. Unlike any film ever made about the sport, The Collective features “Sunday Jen” as its centerpiece and orders for the debut album and single have been flowing through the band’s website from all over the world ever since.

A new album is being recorded and the fire has been restored within the band. Realizing that the band doesn’t really need a label to sell its’ music, slackstring is letting things flow naturally, one show at a time. The next tour will come when the time is right…

The music of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, the Beatles and The Rolling Stones influenced the band, along with modern artists such as Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, G. Love, Elliott Smith, the Descendents and sublime.

slackstring tours in California extensively, playing the House of Blues in Hollywood and the Whiskey Ago Go and numerous Surfrider Foundation benefits.

slackstring has opened shows for Jack Johnson, Slightly Stoopid, Donavon Frankenwreiter and sublime.